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Truth Project #3 - Anthropology: “Who is Man? - What does Easter Suggest?”

Easter Sunday Apr.8/12 1Cor.15:42-49,54-57

GOOD, BAD, OR INDIFFERENT

[SLIDE 4] Today’s topic as we continue our look at The Truth Project is Anthropology, asking: “Who is Man?” Who am I, and who are you, in our basic natures? And what does Easter have to say about this? Are people basically inherently
good, or radically depraved, corrupted in their inner being from the get-go? Representing a classic Christian view we have the famous Baptist preacher CH Spurgeon [SLIDE 12] who said, “You cannot slander human nature.It is worse than words can paint it.” Or, on the other hand, there is the view of humanists or secularists who would maintain people are basically good. Take the famous psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers: Maslow held [SLIDE 39], “As far as I know we just don’t have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” Rogers maintainted [SLIDE 40], “I do not find that...evil is inherent in human nature.” Who’s right? Which view is closer to the truth?
    Or, to put it in the context of Good Friday and Easter: “If ‘I’m OK’ and ‘you’re OK’, then what in the world is Jesus doing on the cross?!” And, why would anyone who’s become ‘self-actualized’ in this life even need a resurrection?

THE BIBLE’S REALISTIC PORTRAIT

Let’s look at some representative key Scripture passages that capture how the Bible sees people. For that, we have to go back to the very beginning: [SLIDE 9] Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him...” We started out pure and innocent and good, in God’s likeness. But something catastrophic took place in the Garden of Eden. We rejected God’s ways and rebelled, choosing to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. [SLIDE 10] Romans 5:12, “...sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...” Successive generations learned wickedness from each other, so that by Noah’s time, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5) Great wickedness, evil inclinations continually – not too flattering a picture, is it?
    So the apostle Paul could express the struggle we each find ourselves in when trying to decide to do the right thing: [SLIDE 17] Romans 7:15,18-20: “I do not understand what I do.For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” There’s an inner conflict between what we KNOW would be right to do, and what we actually FEEL like doing. It’s a sort of bondage, what Paul calls in the flesh being “a slave to the law of sin.” Slavery is a strong term!
    What are the outworkings of this fallen condition, as the Bible depicts it? [SLIDE 44] Colossians 3:5-10, “...whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry...[SLIDE 45]anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips...lie to each other...” From a corrupt nature and sinful desires spring evil behaviours. Does this sound realistic? Have you experienced any of this in life?
    The eventual result of inherent ‘badness’ is as Paul describes in 1Corinthians 15 (45, 56): “The sting of death is sin...” Sin’s penalty is death. And when we die, the perishable body is sown in dishonour and weakness.
    God has gifted the human race with conscience. So there is an internal struggle or conflict, Romans 7:24f [SLIDE 18]: “What a WRETCHED man I am!...I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law [acknowledging what’s right in theory], but in the sinful nature (the flesh - in practice I am) a slave to the law of sin.” We may acknowledge the truth of God’s law, what’s right ideally, but we find ourselves powerless to keep it. So there’s wretched dissonance, a cleft between idea and deed. 1Corinthians 15:17 says that if Christ has not been raised, “You are still in your sins.” Our bad actions mean we need a Messiah, a Saviour.

THE PERNICIOUS LIE’S PHOTOSHOPPED VERSION

Is that view realistic, considering what we see on the news and hear in everyday life? What about the non-Biblical view? Occasionally on Facebook you may see so-and-so has read an article about supermodels gathered for an event but someone has snapped pictures of them without being photoshopped - a more true-to-life version than the edited shots that fix any imperfections before winding up in magazines. Which worldview is the ‘un-Photoshopped’ version? Which portrayal has been tampered with to suit one’s taste?
    Here are some quotes to illustrate a more secular, non-Biblical view of anthropology. [SLIDE 23] We saw this one last week - Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” You’re restricted to reality being defined as this ‘cosmic cube’, God has been defined out of existence, like putting blinders on a horse. [SLIDE 24] In Humanism, “The nonreality of the supernatural means, on the human level, that men do not possess supernatural and immortal souls.” No component of us corresponding or answerable to God because, in this view, there is no God. [SLIDE 54] Jean-Jacques Rousseau held: “If man is good by nature, as I believe to have shown him to be, it follows that he stays like that as long as nothing foreign to him corrupts him.” So man in-and-of-himself is good, and stays that way, apart from any intrusive influences. [SLIDE 33] Paul Kurtz concludes, “If man is a product of evolution, one species among others, in a universe without purpose, then man’s option is to live for himself...” Which brings us to a star famous psychologist of the twentieth century, Abraham Maslow, who is a cornerstone of elementary college psychology courses. [SLIDE 38] Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” starts out at the bottom with rudimentary physiological needs like food and shelter, then once these are satisfied the individual progresses on up through safety and social needs, then esteem, finally arriving at the pinnacle of existence - “self-actualization”: becoming the person you are uniquely geared to be. [SLIDE 41] Maslow supposes, “If you think in terms of the basic needs, instincts, at least at the outset, are all ‘good’...[SLIDE 42] Since this inner nature is good or neutral rather than bad, it is best to bring it out, and to encourage it rather than to suppress it.If it is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful, and happy.”
    So the siren call of modern society is to throw off inhibitions and do what feels good, satisfy your cravings and instincts, get in touch with your inner self and let your desires be the infallible guide for your life. Why would anyone want to suppress what is inherently good? Quench that thirst, cater to that craving.
    In 1Corinthians 15(32ff) Paul speaks of “some who are ignorant of God...” Humanists and secularists deliberately ignore God. Paul a couple of verses earlier writes, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” That just about sums up the secular worldview. [SLIDE 34] Clarence Darrow states: “The purpose of man is like the purpose of the pollywog - to wiggle along as far as he can without dying; or, to hang to life until death takes him.” Wiggle along, little pollywog, eat and drink what you can – tomorrow you may die!

WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD

So, there you have it: two highly different views of man. Dr Del Tackett sums them up this way: [SLIDE 48] On the left, the Biblical worldview: “Man is created in the image of God”; on the right, the secular or evolutionary view - “Goo-man, a product of mindless, purposeless forces.” [SLIDE 49] “Man, though created perfect, rebelled against God and is now fallen, his heart desperately wicked;” OR “Man is basically good.” [SLIDE 50] Biblically speaking - “Man needs divine grace, regeneration, and redemption;” OR a humanist might conclude, “Man must save himself through self-oriented pursuits.” Pursuing self-actualization, in Maslow’s lingo. [SLIDE 51] On the left - “Imago Deo”, made in the image and likeness of God; vs “Imago Goo”. On the left, fallen and needing redemption; on the right, good, and ripe for self-actualization – who needs an outside Saviour, anyway?!
    Question: which view better reflects the reality we see in the world around us? I won’t show it here, but in the Truth Project ‘tour’ there is a very sobering 2-minute clip that’s a collection of various ‘bad news’ stories - shootings, genocides, murders, riots. Very sobering, but unfortunately very accurately depicting what goes on around the world every day. A startling and graphic summary of “man’s inhumanity to man”.
    I would like to show a clip from Doctor Theodore Dalrymple, who has worked among the lower classes and concluded Rousseau’s view of man just isn’t advisable...[VIDEO]
    He can’t recommend ‘making self the centre’; instead we need to ‘transcend’ ourselves. Rousseau’s approach doesn’t cut it in everyday life, as if it’s better to kill your spouse than try to adjust your own attitude.
    There’s also a philosophical problem with the evolutionary view in terms of explaining why we’re bothered by evil. If God doesn’t exist, and (as we saw from Dr Provine) in naturalistic philosophy there is “no ultimate meaning in life” and “no ultimate foundation for ethics”, why should anyone be troubled by evil at all? Why, if there are no absolutes by which to judge, should aggressive actions cause anyone qualms of conscience?  [SLIDE 59] Dr Tackett  suggests some interesting questions you might ask someone who protests they can’t believe there is a God because of all the evil there is in the world: “Why does evil BOTHER you? Why do you FEEL BAD about evil? Isn’t evil...simply the natural outworking of the evolutionary process?” You know, ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ etc? Unwittingly, when we jettison God, we find we’ve also lost any parachute of absolute meaning or values, any yardstick of ‘right and wrong’ by which to gauge behaviour. What’s to stop a tyrant or bully from defining the world as better without people like YOU?

EASTER’S VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH

The Bible consistently tells us we have a sin-problem. Though we initially started out in a state of innocence, that didn’t last; and we know from our own experience have failed to be perfectly good and never break God’s commandments. Jesus went to the cross on Good Friday exactly because of our sin-problem: He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice in our place to absorb our punishment, to make it possible for us sinners to be reconciled to an absolutely holy God. In fact, God was doing this IN Jesus, drawing us near, removing our shame and dishonour and bentness.
    The resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning points forward to the new reality His surrender has made possible. We have more hope and future than just a poor wiggling pollywog! 1Corinthians 15(54ff) states, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."...The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    That victory wasn’t easily or painlessly won. Good Friday was all about the propitiation for our evil-ness and its devastating effects; [SLIDE 14] “...with your blood you (Jesus) purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9) You have been bought back for God at a high price from hopelessness and a wrathful, justly deserved judgment! Blood-bought.
    Resurrection also points to God’s transforming work in our lives, making us NEW. 1Cor 15:49, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (Jesus).” Our understanding from the New Testament that what happened to Jesus in the tomb is what will also happen to those who die trusting in Him. Vv42-44, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (FOR US, HE MEANS!). The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”
    But don’t wait til after you’re dead! The victory Paul’s talking about begins NOW when you receive Jesus and are born anew by the Holy Spirit. He helps us live according to the Spirit, and put to death those deadly misdeeds our ‘old nature’ would drag us into. [SLIDE 43] Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live...” Galatians 5:16, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Colossians 3(9b-10), “...you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Resurrection reality begins right now!

BUGGED BY EVIL? A DOORWAY TO FAITH

I’d like to close with a one-minute clip by Os Guinness showing how being irked by evil can really be God’s way of nudging us toward the doorway to faith. For, once you admit the reality of evil, that man ISN’T just basically good, that begs for some boundaries, some absolutes, in order for life to be meaningful...[VIDEO]
    The truth about mankind , then, is that we ARE fallen; sin and evil are very real. In fact evil should serve as a sort of ‘flag’ to twig us to the situation that something’s not right - rather, dreadfully wrong. But Jesus came to save us and show the full extent of God’s redeeming love for a lost and perishing humanity by dying and rising for us! “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Co 15:57) Let’s pray.